For Dutch readers: hier is een link naar een video waarin je kan zien hoe sterk het materiaal is waarvan de UTUR drum gemaakt is.
For English readers: Below is a translation of the text pictured
Slagwerkkrant. Issue number 229, may-june 2022.
BW Drums Farmers Drum IV en Utur XI
There are artists and there are drumbuilders. Every once in a while there's somebody who knows how to combine these two quite differing professions. Bart Westera is such a person. His BW drums are unique pieces, each and everyone of them, and that is surely the case with the two drums he sent us for an introduction.
Tekst and images: Dennis Boxem. Tekst translated from Dutch to English by Bart Westera.
When building a drum Westera lets his imagination flow freely. Sometimes he makes a drum with a austere wooden shell, nice clean hardware and a fairly modern straight look, but the next moment he surprises us with a drums that has a shell finished with fabric, wooden hardware, handmade hoops and other sassy design-features. There's one thing, though, that connects all his drum; they truely oose character.
As can be suspected by hearing the name, Farmers Drum IV is the fourth drum in a series. The name is related to the concept behind this series. Westera only allows himself to use a basic set of handtools, like a farmer would have in his barn. In making Farmers Drum nummer IV he also added the challenge of using four metals: aluminum, brass, copper and steel.
The basis of this drum is a staveshell made from birch. That shell is enclosed in two aluminum rings. In order to make those rings fit around the shell a groove had to made on the top and bottom side, which created a characreristic edge in the shell. The lugs are repurposed vintage ones; Westera removed the nickel from them to show the solid brass underneath. The hoops are a combination of brass on the inside and hammerd copper on the outside. The hoops are constructed in order to hide the fleshhoops of the drumheads from sight. The brass/copper hoops, on their turn, are kept in place with claws, that, like the strainer/throw and venthole, are handmade from raw steel.
The amount of different techniques used in making this drum, and the mastery of them are unbelievable. The result is truely a work of art; you can look at it for at least half an hour before you have seen all the details. But Westera didn't fall into the trap of making a product that only looks good. Depite it's special looks this is a drum that in a technical sense is simply a good drum. The strainer/throw works excellently and, despite their heavily worked appearance, all tensions rods screw in the lugs as smoothly as can be. Also the hoops may look quite different than what you're used to, but they do exactly the same as generic factory hoops would do.
With respect to sound, this drum sounds like it looks; earthly. It is extraordinarily responsive en also with quiet playing it has a lot of character. It gives a nice gritty unkh with a pleasantly round and melodious resonance. When tuned a little higher the sound gets more focussed, but it keeps the warm and broad character that the lower tuning gave. Due to the hoops, rimshots are beatifully wide and thick, and they have a lot of "air". Tuned even higher the drum becomes shorter and more pointy, but when you hit a rimshot, that beautifully wide guttery sound keeps emerging. Due to the hybrid construction of the shell rimclicks sound amazingly full and fat. This Farmers Drum, with its specific character, is ideal for jazz, light pop, anything that needs controlled volume and optimal warmth.
The UTUR XI comes closest to what in Westera's work could be called serial production. Westera got the inspiration for his special Utra Thin Ultra Rigid shells from tapping a cilindrical lampshade that was made from just one ply of veneer; it had a lot more tone that an ordinary multi-ply drumshell in the same position. The question was how to make a shell that thin, but also rigid. The answer was a seperate wooden sub-frame that has the least possible contact with a wafer-thin outer shell (in this case 1,5 mm. birch). Apart from the necessary rigidity, the subframe creates the bearing edges as well and that is necessary because 1,5 mm. birch can be folded like a piece of paper, so to speak. The birch outer shell, finished with a thin layer of handpainted wrap, is glued along the bearing edges of the subframe. On the location where the lugs are mounted there is a little piece of wood that connects the outer shell to the subframe and that absorbs the forces. This is what makes the shellconstruction a unity.
Moreover, this subframe is yet another beautiful Westera design. It sort of fools you a little, because when you tap the shell you hear and feel how extremely thin this shell really is. An extra well padded hardcase is strongly advised to transport this drum. While an accident will leave only a dent on a normal drumshell, with this UTUR shell the damage may be much more dramatic*.
The solid brass hardware on this UTUR XI drum consists of simple round lugs and nice retro single flanged hoops that are kept in place with tiny claws. The throw (also made from brass) is just as classic: a so called beer tap throw-off that disengages the snare wires a lot with one movement. The raw brass looks great already, but with time there will evolve a patine that will make it match the colors of the shell even better.
The sound of this UTUR is remarkable, the shell sings upon the slightest tough. It has a rolling and roaring sound that feels pretty vintage. In a low tuning it almost screams 'New Orleans Jazz'; a lot of tone, a nice musical howl and a very airy sound. If you tune it higher, the character changes a little and the sound becomes dryer. It becomes a little pointyer whle staying friendly at the same time. A thicker snaredrum often get more bite. The UTUR simply has a nice broad crack. Rimshots on this thin shell are truely phenomenal, if you hit head and rim at the same time you get a broad explosion emitting beutiful frequencies from this shell. Again, it is striking how open en light this drum sounds.
It is almost difficult to give a judgment aboit these two drums. These aren't drums with shells machined to extremely tight tolerances, with throw-offs that look like a Swiss watch. These are two pieces of art that sound clear as a bell, and that function as good drum in every aspect. If you think you'd have to pay large sums of money for one these drums, you're wrong. The UTUR costs E495,- and the Farmers Drum costs E895,- That's ridiculously little considering all the work that must have gone into them.
The two drums covered here are just a small peek into Westera's kitchen. On his website you can easily see he makes a lot more and that almost every drum is a completely unique creation. What becomes clear when looking a these drums is that they are made with a tremendous amount of passion. Whether it is the earthly, almost crude -but at the same time well thought out- construction of the Farmers Drum, or the very precise construction of the UTUR snaredrum, Westera put his heart and soul into it. You can see and hear that.
*note of translator: "importeursreactie: zie pagina 57" refers to a page where I gave a reaction to a first draught of this text. There I explain that the material used for making the UTUR drum is much stronger than the writer supposes. I can back that up with this video, where I hit it with a hammer and stays intact completely.